How you’re looking is how you’re going to see it.
And how you’ve seen it is how you think it should be.
Unless you see it and change it.
A story is not just a story.
It’s your view to life itself.
Your interpretation creates your world.
This is a quote from my play, PocaHAUNTus—shapeshifting history into Herstory, that I’m in the middle of writing.
Writing this play has been an enormous challenge because one of the main premises is the relativity of truth, as the quote above indicates.
How do I write a story that indicates that how you tell the story IS the story itself, without dictating what that story looks like so that each audience member is then free to recognize that we are all-ways inventing the world by the view we take to it?
And what does this have to do with yoga?
So often I have been regaled with the refrain;
I can’t do yoga!–I can’t even touch my toes.
This is just a story that someone’s telling themselves about their lack of flexibility. Finally I have come up with a suitable retort;
Well, you won’t get any closer to touching your toes by not doing yoga!
So many of us assume the position of solidification, of matter being fixed particle instead dynamic and relational particles, or even waves. We so easily assume that maturity is a matter of material accumulation–of stuff we can buy and sell, or of knowledge we can stack up, or of the body’s baggage.
Is this true?
I cannot count the number of people who have said to me, resignedly;
It’s just old age.
Ok, I’ll admit I’m not 60 or 80 years old yet and don’t know what they feel or experience, yet I refuse to see, think or speak that way. Because seeing, thinking and speaking that way leads to acting and being that way.
How you see your world becomes the way you experience your world.
Drishti is a term you may have heard bandied about the yoga world and it usually refers to where and how you’re meant to focus your eyes.
As examples – on the toes in forward folds in Ashtanga Yoga, at the tip of the nose in Prosperity Meditation of Kundalini Yoga, or at the third eye in seated meditation. One way of understanding drishti is as a means of gazing outwards while bringing awareness inwards, particularly during asana practice.
In my online etymological (roots of words) search of the word drishti, I came across this quote from Drishi Centre for Integral Action, an organization for social change premised on inner awareness:
The Eastern philosopher, Patanjali, points out that in viewing the world, we don’t always see reality clearly, but instead tend toward seeing things as we’d like them to be.
This influence of our own preferences, assumptions, and biases can occlude a clear view and become what the philosophers call a false perception.
Philosophies both East and West consider this confusion or false perception to be one of the root causes of suffering. They explain that alleviating suffering is possible only when we are able to see things are they really are.
So is it really true that “It’s just old age?” Perhaps to a certain extent the current state of one’s body IS going to limit the body’s strength, flexibility or overall health. But the more interesting questions to me are;
- How much is your perception of your current state limiting you in this very moment?
- How much is your view creating, and then substantiating and defending, your seeming reality so that you can safely avoid doing the work required to shift into a clearer and stronger self?”
Getting onto your yoga mat, by yourself and for yourSelf, is the simplest thing in the world.
Unroll it. Step on. Breathe. Listen. Look. Move. Be still. Be.
Yet I’m sure you can instantaneously list impressive and countless reasons why you haven’t done it or don’t do it. I know because I know. I’ve heard all the same excuses in my own head!
As we head into a brand new year, how can we ensure that we’re seeing clearly, and not just what we want to see or what we think we see?
Start simply by asking the question, where is my gaze? Inward or outward? Forward or backward? Open or closed? Laden or free?
As Rilke said;
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
In MYOGA we turn the gaze inwards as often as is practical (won’t throw you off balance!) in order to apply drishti — view of the eyes and mind — so we can cultivate pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) & dharana (concentration).
We navigate this crazy world with our eyes more than any other sense. They are our antennae, our feelers out into the world.
When we take time to practice yoga at home, we are specifically setting an energetic boundary. This space and this time is for this practice, for me.
With this boundary, this story, we can then trust enough to pull the gaze inwards and to discover the treasures awaiting us there.
When you do step onto your mat, gaze at the clear-seeing and the courage that got you there.
And be grateful.
If you are setting your sights on a regular home yoga practice, then I recommend the MYOGA Basics Photobook and Audio Series.
Even after decades of self-practice and 13 years of teaching others, the Basics is my best friend.
It’s here that I centre my awareness in the on-going process of clearing the channels and strengthening the container. It’s like flushing the toilet! You wouldn’t go a week using the toilet and not flush it – it would stink!
Yet we can easily go weeks, months, years, even decades without flushing the crap out of our systems. This time of year is about commitment and clearing, so go on, commit to clearing the crap out of your life and yourSelf.
And remember that commitment is not a one-time thing but rather a regular check-in and recommitment, yet the continued result of that practice is clarity, strength and centredness. More powa to you!